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Brothers Ali and Mehdi take a selfie together at the airport.
Family reunion

After 11 years apart these Afghan brothers are finally reunited

In late September, Mehdi got the call he had been waiting for. After 11 years, he was finally going to be reunited with his younger brother. 

“It was unbelievable news that he broke to me. It felt as if all my dreams had come true.” He told the IRC as he waited for his 17-year-old brother Ali’s arrival outside Frankfurt airport.

The last time Mehdi saw his brother was when they were living in Iran. “At the time, he was a little boy. I was able to kiss him, hug him and say goodbye to him, and I have not seen him since.”

Medhi waits outside Frankfurt airport for his younger brother.

"I am speechless because I am beside myself with joy that his flight will arrive soon.” Says Mehdi anxiously as he waits outside the airport for his younger brother.

As refugees from Afghanistan, Mehdi and Ali had a challenging time living in Iran. Mehdi was separated from his family due to personal issues and left Iran when he was 18. Eventually, he settled in Germany where he hoped his mother and Ali would be able to join him, but things didn’t go to plan for the family.

“While travelling from Iran to Turkey, Ali became separated from my mom when he was 14 years old,” Mehdi told us. “Ali was alone. My mother was deported to Afghanistan and Ali went to Greece.”

“I tried to get to Greece eight times,” Ali told the IRC. “Every time the Greek police would catch me and deport me back to Turkey. The Turkish police took all my clothes, telephone and money.” 

When he arrived in Greece, Ali was taken to a holding centre for newly arrived migrants. He stayed at the centre for around one year and the memories still give him bad dreams. “In the evening, there were 5-6 policemen. Everybody [the social workers] goes home, and the police are the only ones there. When the children played football in our block, the police would come and beat us.”

The difficulty of living in a reception centre meant that Ali contemplated returning to Afghanistan. “But because of my support and encouragement, Ali withstood all adversity, and today he is coming to Germany,” says Mehdi smiling. 

Medhi and his younger brother Ali hug after 11 years apart.

“It was really great to have the opportunity to hold my brother in my arms after eleven years,” Mehdi told the IRC. “When my father passed away, I became like a father to Ali.”

Eventually, Ali was transferred to the Supported Independent Living apartments run by the IRC in Athens. The IRC supported Ali with lawyers to help his case and social workers to support him during his time in Greece. Whilst he was living in Athens,  Ali learnt the news he was to be reunited with his brother “In Germany, I will not be afraid. I will have my brother with me. He will help me”, Ali told the IRC before leaving Greece.

“Ali is determined to make a life for himself here.” Says Mehdi as he waits for his brother to walk through the arrivals doors. “Whatever he wishes to do, I will have his back and support him, no matter what happens.”

Ali’s arrival is an emotional one. After being delayed for five hours because he was questioned by the German police the brothers were finally together in person again. Holding each other in a long embrace. 

“I am utterly overjoyed.” Says Ali. “When I saw him in the distance and then hugged him, it was a new feeling for me.” 

Watch the moment brothers Ali and Mehdi are reunited after 11 years

The brothers hope their mother will be able to join them in Germany. Mehdi worries about his mother living in Afghanistan, a country experiencing an escalating humanitarian crisis. “I follow social media every day.” He says. “I see every day that Afghanistan is struggling with a myriad of problems: poverty, unemployment; all Afghans are anxious and worried these days.”

For now, Mehdi looks forward to his future in Germany with his brother “My main plan is to move forward, to advance. And along with me, Ali can make progress too, so that we can build a great world for ourselves.”

Medhi and his younger brother Ali smile at each other.

“A brother is your flesh and blood, your blood relative. I mean, everyone knows that there is a bond of brotherhood.” Says Medhi.

With the support of his brother, Ali has newfound confidence in his future. “I have taken a step forward.” Says Ali, “I am climbing the ladder step by step, realising my dreams, doing what I want to do.”

Ali was supported by the IRC in Greece through the FUTURA project

The FUTURA project is implemented under the “Asylum and Migration” programme in Greece. The “Asylum and Migration” (Addressing urgent needs for the reception and screening of asylum seekers and for the accommodation of vulnerable groups) programme in Greece, financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, was awarded a total budget of 16,5 million euros as part of the EEA Grants 2014 – 2021. The programme aspires to contribute to ensuring legal protection, support and care for the most vulnerable asylum seekers, with emphasis on unaccompanied children. The Fund Operator for the “Asylum and Migration” programme in Greece is SOL Consulting S.A in partnership with HumanRights360. 

More information: https://www.asylumandmigration-eeagrants.gr 

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the person interviewed.